#21 Georgia Football 2016 Preview

Georgia Bulldogs
Overall Rank: #21
#5 SEC
Georgia is ushering in a new era as former Alabama assistant Kirby Smart takes over the head coaching duties from Mark Richt. On paper, Georgia had an alright season last year, going 10-3 and winning the Taxslayer Bowl, but the Bulldogs failed to get any big wins with the possible exception of a victory at Auburn. They only played two teams who were ranked when they played them, and UGA lost both of them. This program is desperate for big wins and to compete in the SEC East and Coach Smart could be the guy who takes them there.
2015 Record: 10-3, 5-3
2015 Bowl: Taxslayer Bowl vs. Penn State (W 24-17)
Coach: Kirby Smart (0-0 at Georgia, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: JimChaney
Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Sony Michel, RB, 1,161 yards
Passing: Greyson Lambert, QB, 1,959 yards
Receiving: Terry Godwin, WR, 379 yards
Tackles: Tim Kimbrough, LB, 67
Sacks: Davin Bellamy, LB, 3.0
Interceptions: Dominick Sanders, S, 6
Other Key Returnees: RB Nick Chubb, WR Reggie Davis, OL Greg Pyke, S Quincy Mauger, CB Aaron Davis, CB Malkom Parrish
Key Losses: WR Malcolm Mitchell, OL John Theus, LB Jake Ganus, LB Leonard Floyd, LB Jordan Jenkins, K Marshall Morgan
Coach Smart is a defensive minded coach and he inherits just about everybody back from a secondary that ranked first in the country in pass defense. Safety Dominick Sanders picked off six passes last season and will again lead the unit. Malkom Parrish and Aaron Davis are the experienced options at cornerback, but watch out for sophomore Juwuan Briscoe. This may not be the best pass defense in the country again, especially since both triple option teams Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech are not on the schedule this year, but they will be very good. The strength of the offense will largely depend on the health of running Nick Chubb. In an injury shortened year, the bruiser of a back rushed for 756 yards and seven touchdowns on just 92 carries. That is an average of 8.1 yards per carry. Sony Michel filled in admirably and rushed for 1,161 yards and eight scores and is also back. Of course it would be ideal if Chubb was fully healthy, but that may take some time. In the meantime, Michel is not a bad option.
The passing game must get better though. Quarterback Greyson Lambert was efficient, completing 63.3 percent of his passes for a dozen touchdowns with just two interceptions, but he was not particularly dangerous. With a full season under his belt, after coming in from Virginia, Lambert could be in for a much better year. But the Bulldogs also have freshman Jacob Eason and junior Brice Ramsey. Assuming one of them steps up, Georgia’s passing game will be better. The question is just how much better can they be. With receiver Terry Godwin and a deep crop of tight ends, all of the tools are there for the offense to turn into a balanced unit. The concern on defense is in the front seven. As usual, there is talent, but there is not much experience.
The Bottom Line:
We may not find out right away if Georgia made the right move by getting rid of Coach Richt and bringing in Coach Smart. However, the pieces that the Bulldogs have right now fit what the new regime wants to do. They can play defense and they can run the ball. That is what wins games in the SEC. Georgia will need a balanced offense to win the SEC East. Not playing Alabama or LSU is a bonus and Tennessee, the likely favorite in the SEC East, has to come to Athens. That early October game could have huge SEC East title implications.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 192.2 (38th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 185.1 (104, 10)
Total Offense: 377.2 (83, 8)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (85, 9)
Rushing Defense: 149.5 (42, 8)
Pass Defense: 156.5 (1, 1)
Total Defense: 305.9 (7, 3)
Scoring Defense: 16.9 (8, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.31 (39, 7)
Sacks: 1.62 (97, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 1.15 (15, 2)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#31 Nick Chubb
#68 Lorenzo Carter
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#5 Jacob Eason
#12 Isaac Nauta
#13 Mecole Hardman Jr.
#36 Julian Rochester
#81 Michail Carter
#88 Charlie Woerner
#170 Ben Cleveland
#171 Chauncey Manac
#184 Elijah Holyfield